Lynn Shelton

Questions that Await Answers

The Weekly Report – July 19, 2021
The 2021 State of Manufacturing® survey may bring clarity to the still murky perceptions about the COVID-era manufacturing economy.

As I write this, we have just concluded a conference call with pollster Rob Autry to start brainstorming the questionnaire for the 2021 edition of the State of Manufacturing® (SOM) survey. Rob, founder of Meeting Street Insights, is one of America’s top pollsters. He has been at the helm of all 12 previous surveys and he will oversee this one as well.

The questionnaire alone, still a work in progress, showed us why the State of Manufacturing has become such a durable asset in our state’s manufacturing ecosystem. It is always interesting to observe how manufacturers use the survey and the related focus groups to describe their challenges and opportunities in the upcoming year.

This year, we think the unpredictable economic weirdness associated with COVID might yield our most fascinating results yet.

I think manufacturers will cast a keen eye on this year’s results. COVID affected manufacturers on different levels. Some suffered. Some prospered. Some were just able to tread water amidst economic and political uncertainties. Will there be a COVID legacy? If so, what will it look like and will it matter?

In the end, will it have an effect on the ongoing shortage of qualified workers, or is it still mostly a demographic issue? Will employees sensing their increasing bargaining power and become more demanding, as current media like to speculate?  Will they become less loyal and more willing to bounce around jobs in the search for better circumstances?

Will manufacturers double down on creative solutions to increase productivity through automation and improved business management systems?

What about supply chain relationships? Will there be ever diminishing trust in foreign relationships. Will that lead to more local sourcing?

And will cyber security continue to gain urgency among small and medium sized manufacturers, or do they think that is more of a problem for larger companies?

Insightful legislators will look through the survey to help find constructive solutions that help manufacturers. How will they direct their energies amid a growing trend of increased government involvement in business? And can it be used to enhance a free-market economy? Will they find the value in reigniting programs like the successful Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) that helps small and medium sized companies cope with widening market challenges? Or will government look to be a connector in finding more and better public/private partnerships?

Olsen Thielen CPA - Oct 2020

Communities, too, will pay attention as they hear again about how manufacturers struggle to find people to fill ever better career opportunities. Will they realize that just because they keep hearing about it doesn’t dilute its urgency?

You might recall that The State of Manufacturing itself was not immune from the hot mess caused by COVID. In March 2020, we were just halfway (almost exactly) through conducting the 500-plus interviews for last year’s survey. We knew that the emergence of COVID midway in the interviews might skew the results.  We also knew that that there would be no way we could convene the statewide schedule of 15 focus groups, which were scheduled for three weeks beginning on April 6. We conducted a second survey in September 2020 and released the results at a virtual event in November.

We were disappointed, to be sure, about the need to do two surveys in one year. But, like the manufacturers we serve, we weren’t going to worry about circumstances we couldn’t control; we set our sights on things we could control. So (at no small cost) we moved the survey to November which enabled us to analyze how Minnesota’s manufacturers worked through one of the most peculiar—and potentially destructive–challenges they have ever faced. And like manufacturers, we learned from the experience. We thought the fall-timing of the event was even better, and we’ve decided to stick to it. This year’s poll will be released on November 10 from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest.

Not for nothing, I mentioned that we’re still in the early stages of formulating our questions. If you have topics and questions you might like to suggest, please do so by sending me an email at [email protected].

To register for the November 10 event, go here.

WIDSETH architecture and engineering

Events Calendar

August 10 – The Value of Peer Councils
Join us for a discussion with manufacturing executives on how Peer Councils can be leveraged to provide business insights, ideas and ways to keep improving and growing. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

August 17 – Developing Your Leaders From Within
When employees are satisfied, engaged, and feel a sense of community in the workplace, they will not only be more productive, but will be more resistant to turnover. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

September 9 – Automate with Purpose
Join CI expert Greg Langfield as he discusses ways to think about and apply continuous improvement in preparation for automation in your business. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

See more upcoming events

Industry News

Minnesota’s pandemic-driven bike boom is showing no signs of slowing 
High consumer demand and a crunch on suppliers has made bikes and their parts difficult to come by. July 16, MinnPost  Read more

Uponor to expand manufacturing capacity in two facilities
Both expansions will mark the company’s 12th and 13th in North America since 1990. July 16,  Read more

Cherne Industries relocates HQ and manufacturing to new Shakoppe facility
The manufacturer of waterworks and plumbing products recently completed a move to a newly constructed 130,000-sq. ft. facility to more fully integrate all its operations under one roof. July 15, yahoo! finance  Read more

Alexandria Industries names new co-presidents
The Alexandria, MN-based advanced manufacturer announced Joe Schabel and Steve Schabel as co-presidents. Current CEO Tom Schabel will remain in his position, but transition to an advisory role. July 14, Business Wire  Read more

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